Hello Asia! KOFFIA 2014 Film Review: Rough Play (배우는 배우다) (South Korea, 2013)

As one of the few movies that has a K-Pop idol starring as the main actor, Kim Ki-Duk and Shin Yeon-Shik's Rough Play was a very interesting movie. Its Korean title ("배우는 배우다") translates into "An Actor Is an Actor", and it is quite obvious that the movie is about the rough path of an actor. What was truly captivating about this movie was the delivery of the lines and how poetic it was that I needed to calmly sit down and truly think about the whole movie.

Rough Play follows the life story of Oh Young (played by MBLAQ's Lee Joon), who was an aspiring actor on the rise. As most actors do, he started off as a nameless actor in a small production play. He is a very interesting character as he likes to improvise off-script and claims himself as a "methodist actor". He tries to stand out and perfect his acting skills without putting in any consideration for his fellow co-stars, which causes him trouble because his co-stars cannot handle him. Albeit his cocky attitude, he was noticed by a manager named Kim Jang-Ho (played by Seo Beom-Seok), who went through a downfall and was looking for an actor that could help him making a comeback in the entertainment biz. Manager Kim convinced Oh Young that he could be a big star because he had the potential. Despite Oh Young's rejections, he finally gave in and let Kim become his manager. The catch is that manager Kim was pulling on a lot of strings to get Oh Young to the top position. Until in the production of the movie Moebius, where Oh Young was initially cast as an extra, but because of manager Kim's help, Oh Young was getting more lines and was noticed by the public after the movie was released.

Oh Young became an overnight superstar, however, his downfall was as quick as his rise. The movie went on to show the dark side of the entertainment business, which was controlled by mafias and actors would have to sleep with important people to get to their way to the top. It also showed how easy it was for actors to fall in a blink of an eye due to a scandal, when initially they had to work very hard to get to the top. Rough Play was delivered in a poetic, almost dark comedic way. There were many elements in this movie that made the story line so interesting and twisted, shown in the repetition of some scenes from the theatrical play that Oh Young was in, and the dynamic and various supporting characters that changed Oh Young's fate as an actor.

As a fan of twisted, thriller movies, I was quite happy with how the movie turned out. Rough Play was incredibly raw, poetic, and daring. Before this movie was released, there were news regarding Lee Joon's nude scenes for the movie, and those nude sexual scenes were uncensored and in-your-face, but in a tasteful way. I think that most kissing scenes in Korean movies are no more than just a peck, but the sex scenes in this movie are the real deal. I think it is very brave for Lee Joon to portray this character, especially with sex being a taboo topic, especially for K-Pop idols. This movie has transformed Lee Joon from a singer to a full-pledged actor, as he won the 2014 Wildflower Film Awards for Best New Actor.

If you like a good twisted movie, Rough Play is a good choice to watch. This movie did a good job in telling the story of Oh Young's life as an actor, through the good and through the bad. It also reminds all of us that what goes around, comes around.


KOFFIA - Korean Film Festival in Australia continues in Brisbane until Tuesday September 2, then continues to Perth from September 3-6, Melbourne September 9-16 and Adelaide September 23-26.

Visit for more information, tickets and session times.